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Alberta small-scale meat producers welcome regulatory changes

Small-scale meat producers are welcoming long-awaited changes that will allow consumers to buy an animal directly from the farm.

Minister says changes will provide economic opportunities for ranchers and abattoirs

Blake Hall says regulatory changes are fantastic news for the local food movement in Alberta. (Blake Hall)

Small-scale meat producers are welcoming long-awaited changes that will allow consumers to buy an animal directly from the farm.

On Wednesday, Minister of Agriculture Devin Dreeshen announced roughly 60 amendments to the meat inspection regulation.

Consumers can now buy an animal directly from the farm and have it slaughtered on-site for their personal consumption, rather than having to purchase meat that is provincially or federally inspected. 

First-generation farmer and mobile butcher Blake Hall has been pushing for the change for more than a decade.

He says he hears from many consumers who want meat harvested in a more humane, less stressful manner — a call he says is answered by on-farm slaughter.

"I just think it's a great day for Alberta, a great day for the meat production business, a great day for the farmer-consumer relationship," Hall, who owns Prairie Gold Pastured Meats, said in an interview Thursday. 

"It opens things up for the consumer to reach out to their agrarian cousins, forge a relationship founded on trust and buy meat that's been harvested on the farm.

"And for the local food movement, it's fantastic news because these farmers can sell their pride and joy, the thing that they've put so much work into, directly to the end-consumer and harvest it in a way that justifies all that hard work."

In a media release, the province said the changes are aimed at cutting red tape and providing Albertans with greater access to locally-produced meat while maintaining food safety. Changes come as a result of consultation with industry, the government said.

The amended regulations will allow provincially-licensed meat facilities to salvage and sell meat by-products, which means abattoirs can expand into markets that use meat by-products for human consumption, pet food and wildlife bait.

Video pre-slaughter inspections are also now permitted in emergency situations so that abattoirs won't have to wait for an inspector to perform an inspection on the farm if animal welfare is at stake.

"These common-sense changes will also provide new economic opportunities for Alberta ranchers and provincial abattoirs," Dreeshen wrote.

Dreeshen was not available for interview Thursday.

G&S Meats owner Valentin Iten says the changes will give young Albertans the chance to start butchering. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Valentin Iten, whose butcher shop in the central Alberta hamlet of Morningside has seen a surge in demand since COVID-19, says changes will give young people the opportunity to start butchering.

"It will give people another option to the warehouse and Costco and all that," he said. "So I think it's very important this finally happened."

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